The Ridiculous Vivek Wadhwa Furore and the New Boston Tea Party

Vivek Wadhwa shows up at MIT and tells a bunch of smart people that Boston is being left behind in the sand by Silicon Valley. Sand, silicon, haha; the Valley won. Ensues a stream of cheap shots and angry denials that makes the National Enquirer look pro and some fun headlines, including a scorcher of a headline from the New York Observer: "Vivek flames Beantown has-beens". Milo at the Telegraph never misses a chance to get in on a mudfight whilst Scott attacks Vivek on the absence of data. That's a dangerous line if you ask me, for when the data does come out I bet you it won't look pretty. PEHub is trying to outdo SAI and collects all the nasty tweets, whilst Chase wonders why anyone really gives a shit about this old argument. Oh, and Vivek Wadhwa is not "Mister Wadhwa" or "Professor Wadhwa" or Vivek but "some dude". Nice.

Overall, the old Boston gentleman doth protests too much, methinks.

I am a newcomer to Boston; I have worked in Europe, the Bay Area, New York and now Boston. I find the whole uprising quite suprising, because frankly it does not exactly feel controversial:

  • Boston is a qualitative, deep, highly professional local market that knows a thing or two about building value and building companies
  • Yet Boston has a bunch of serious challenges:
    • It cannot hold on to its youth or its talent; most graduates get out as soon as they finish their studies. The likes of Mark Zuckerberg or Drew Houston take a hike as soon as their business get serious.
    • It's overly comfortable in the halo of its awesome universities, which is dangerous. EPFL in Switzerland is the world's second powerhouse when it comes to academic IP creation, but as an entrepreneurship halo it's not exactly top of your list, is it ?
    • It's getting much better at being open and exciting, but it's still slow and sleepy in some respects. Just ask the entrepreneurs about the pain of getting angel money, the endless diligence meetings, the generally conservative mentality, the gorgeous views of foliage from the windows.
  • So whilst the Boston vs Silicon Valley debate is maybe not that relevant, the need for more change and a sense of urgency about change is far from an irrelevant consideration. I am from Europe, and let me tell you, Boston feels more like a stodgy European market than the uber-eager West Coast market.

In many ways though, Boston is oversold, New York is comparatively over-hyped, Silicon Valley is in love with itself and many underestimate the depth of talent and the attractions of the area. The David Cancels, Dharmesh Shahs, Bill Warners and many other entrepreneurs and angels make the area proud; the Founder Collective, Next View Ventures or Project 11 team are driving seed investing forward; and the area of course has some awesome funds. But to shy away from our problems is foolish and immature, and paints us in a bad light. Embrace your weakness, build on it, says your sensei.

I have just applied for my green card and I am here to make it work. Let's just not take ourselves too seriously now, shall we ?

Reprinted from FredDestin.com

Fred Destin joined Atlas Venture in 2004 and is a Partner in the technology group. He focuses on software and technology-enabled services and digital media infrastructure and applications.

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